Archive for February, 2012

Phase II Projection

This will just be a short post as I’m working on two projects simultaneously at the moment. Above is a video I made over the weekend as part of a proposal for the Lloyd Street area of our “Camera Obscura” project. The idea revolves around a long white piece of material spanning the site, projected onto from below by the “information pipeline” sharing information about the gallery and dedicated server speed for the advanced computing required to run the electronic hub space in the Peace Gardens. The idea reflects the vaulted gallery space in the hall and what will be proposed for the hub space as well, giving a continuity of form to a project that if not properly managed could become disparate and ungainly. The idea of verticle design in Gothic Architecture is brought through in this way and it will also allow for some interesting visual experiments in the space having that connecting ribbon running along above the pedestrians. This also gives reflected lighting to the space giving it a more delicate and nuanced appearance which I hope to visualise in the near future. Until then here’s a quick initial sketch to give a general impression:

The most exciting bit of today’s news however is my ever so massively behind the times acknowledgement of QR codes which, for the uninitiated are those little square labels you find on things like leaflets, clothes labels and the like. They hold more information than bar codes and can be expanded to suit to complexity of the material meaning almost infinite permutations. I found a website called QR-code generator which lets you make your own! So, in true networking fashion I’ve made one for this blog right here. How riveting.

Wacky space racers

Japan’s Obayashi Corp. have recently announced the latest in their stream of outlandish plans for the future, this one being a 36000 km lift into space! Building a perminent link to space is an interesting thought as a connection to a place like the other side of a river is to enforce a material connection, one that can be observed and there can be no dispute over who controls it and who built it. There will be no hoax conspiracy with this moon landing if you can see the elevator dissappearing off into the sky.

The multinational construction firm has declined to comment on the exact price of this most of expensive of tree houses but what we CAN get a budget for is another sci-fi tour de force, namely, the Death Star? In a recent article on centives the cost of building a 140km diameter “that’s not a planet” ball of laser goodness these days comes to around $852, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000. This is estimated by looking at the price of much much much smaller steel military machines such as battleships and extrapolating. I wonder if that price includes the cost of maintenance for those faulty upward sliding doors or for healthcare for careless storm-troopers. Running the empire must be a logistical nightmare.

Gallery Tryptic

The gallery I’ve been devising over the last week revolves around three different areas of the space and the light they receive. The first, “display”, is a space for presentation of photography and art. Lit from above the artwork on show will be protected by UV resistant membrane skins suspended below the window. This is the main view of the gallery. The second is “orientation”, a space to arrive, to leave your coat and to arrange your thoughts. Mainstay collections will be arranged here as well as information desks and toilets. Neither dark nor light this is the hub of the gallery. And thirdly, my favourite, is “projection”, A space to watch films about Manchester’s architecture, films about architecture and architectural films. Visitors will emerge into a moving arctive space or possibly activate the space themselves.

It’s nice being able to express a scheme in three simple images, even nicer to be able to express yourself visually in the first place. Some people are good at presentations because they can talk eloquantly and freely about whatever, they can sell their scheme. I have had the problem from day one of this course that I cannot talk to a group. Recently this problem has been dissippated slightly by a rise in confidence in my work but the fear is still there. I have always found it difficult talking to a group of more than four people and every time I present I aim to finish as quickly as humanly possible. This was helped, therefore, by simple clean sheets that show what I’m about without having to hear myself speak for five minutes. After a minute and a bit I just looked up and said “aaand that’s my scheme”.

And that’s today’s post.

Plus my sheets.

Model Student

A major part of my PDP meeting in January (Personal Development Planning?) was talking about models and their importance not just as a demonstration of form but as an experimentation of structure. If something falls down when made of card it’s unlikely to work in the real world and so on. However, I’m now a year and a half into my Architecture studies and have yet to make a decent model to speak of; it’s like anything, if you leave it too long the pressure mounts to insane levels and what should be an experimental fun exercise becomes an ominous spot on your week, dragging you down to feeling like a child not quite being able to get the triangle block into the square hole. As a visual representation of this feeling and also a clever link to the subject matter, above is a rather fine example of a scale model, made by Thomas Doyle in a series of catastrophic scenes contained in bell jars.

I think the main difference this time has been that I’ve made this model so early in proceedings, I let it help with the design progress rather than represent it artificially. Before setting out I had some preliminary sketches but the location of the staircases and how the toilets were to be arranged were a mystery. It was more of a “get the main structure in a see what happens” kind of approach which in some ways is more stressful and definitely takes more time but in the end you get a design which is enforced by actual physicality rather than anthropometric data from the Metric Handbook!

I think you can get too precious about models and if you relax and use them for what they’re for (showing your housemates that you can do something more than sketching and photoshop) then you won’t live or die on your tutor’s opinion on crit day and can be happy in yourself. After all, how can you expect anyone to love your model if you don’t love it yourself?

Under Manchester

On Monday afternoon we were given the opportunity to go on a guided tour of a part of the massive sprawl of underground tunnels that lie invisible under Manchester. The system we went into was part of an initiative to run an underwater canal under deansgate to allow for easier shipment of good across the city but in WWII the site was given over as a bomb shelter.

The tour guide was very good even if he did go on about the human side of it a bit too much with some very sensationalist accounts of war-time Manchester, one of which ended in a postman’s head being blown off by a bomb landing on the opposite side of the street. Aside from that he was very informative and quite funny about the inevitable conspiracies that surround a place like this, not being accessible to the public etc.

Part of our newest project is to create a landscape between one site and another and the thought of submerged passageways was an intriguing one, our tour guide took us to various points in the tunnel and told us the corresponding space above our heads, most of which was the AMC cinemas but it still made you think of the city as a complex and multifaceted organism with secrets and a history besides the built evidence above.

City of Bits

Part of our project is the installation of a digital gallery in the Peace Garden, St. Peter’s Square, and so as part of this we’ve been given some recommended reading in the form of “City of Bits”. Our building is intended to become a digital hub for visitors to see planned improvements to the city and maybe to speculate on the Manchester of the future, contrasting with the gallery space in the Memorial Hall which reflects the Manchester of the past. This book, then, with it’s visions of the future from a 1996 stand-point shows, in a way, the vision we should be expressing in our designs.

I love a bit of future-city speak and so this book really has been fascinating to read. Mitchell talks about the new information age and its effects both on a human scale up through architecture and onto city and world-wide consequences of both free information and technological advancement. Of course at times his speculations seem pedestrian, for example when he talks about videos being always available on the net on seperate channels but innovation is a strange and unwieldy thing especially in the area of computing. Rates of silicon evolution far exceed that of our carbon-based race with mere memory capabilities and transfer speeds doubling every two years. The internet speeds up this process by allowing communication of ideas on a massive scale so Mitchell’s prediction could never have anticipated the meteoric rise of Youtube and the like.

In the same way he talks about GPS enabled car navigation and it’s possible implementation where a car will be able to vocalize directions. Smart-phones have blown this out of the water in an impossible way and have almost enabled some of his other speculations such as the body-net where items on your person are all synced to behave simultaneously.

Key for our project however is his talk about information architecture and it’s relation with classical examples. He talks about how the circular shape of many city libraries reflects the information-fetching programs of computer hard-disks where the information is laid out so that a person in the centre is equidistant from all possible data/books.

He also warns of the dangers to our current city-wide ecosystem due to new-tech living. He says that cities currently have natural synchronous rhythms such as prime time, rush hour and bus schedules. The Net has none of these, it is asynchronous with TV always available and work conducted through wires. “Temporal rhythm becomes white noise”.

I haven’t finished reading the book yet but there’s just a lot of ideas flying around so I had to get them on the page. Also, talking of a lot of stuff on the page, here’s some site analysis from Tuesday:

A1 Presentation sheets

DIY Camera Obscura

Although the reasoning behind this project’s title is a little out of left field we took some time off this weekend to create our own camera obscura in my friend’s room. Although the concept was relatively new to Ed, Richard and myself the general principle has been known in China since the 5th century BC. Since then it was a gradual progression of invention until it became a portable artistic aide in the 17th century with many artists using it because it allowed a projection in perfect perspective onto a large canvas. The general idea is that a small hole is created through with the light enters and (like in the eye) is flipped onto the canvas behind. In richard’s room we blacked out the windows and left a circle around the size of a toilet roll tube and then set the camera to about a 30 second exposure. The reversing of the image creates that interesting and slightly mind bending effect of the ground being on the ceiling with cars zipping across the corners of the room and we were able to have a bit of fun with the effect, projecting it onto materials and standing outside on the street with a light. The snow that was present however briefly on Saturday gave a brilliant contrast at street level and all in all it was nice to get a bit of practical experimentation done.

In our gallery space we will be displaying photographs of old Manchester through the ages but I feel it would be misplaced not to include some archive footage through projectors and the like and maybe even a cheeky camera obscura somewhere in the gallery, maybe of the street outside or of the sky on the ground, something that plays into the reversal of things and projection of the outside world. The subject is also pertinent for the connecting space that we have to manufacture where the emphasis is not on creation but morphing and landscaping the space to connect the two areas. A while ago there was this post by Jim Sanborn about the minimalism of spaces and natural configurations. This simple act of homogenisation implies something deeper about the digital age that we are moving toward, that trimming of nature to suit our new straight edged conformed and vectorized cityscapes. The town hall is a modern architect’s worst nightmare, too much detail. Reduce, revamp.

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